Silicon Valley Leadership Group Names Ahmad Thomas as CEO

Ahmad Thomas, an investment banking executive and former economic advisor for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco), will be the next CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Thomas will start Aug. 10 and succeed Carl Guardino, who announced last month that he’s joining Bloom Energy in the fall as the executive vice president of government affairs and policy after 23 years as SVLG’s CEO.

“As the economic capital of California, Silicon Valley is looked to as a leader in economic growth, innovation, public policy and now, more than ever social issues,” Thomas said in a statement sent out by the business advocacy organization on Thursday. “Our community has always had serious issues to tackle, but with unprecedented economic challenges brought on by a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic and reckoning with systemic racism, we need to lead with industry-wide initiatives that drive both the national dialogue and bring about real, measurable change. My vision for the Leadership Group is to face these issues head-on as an industry and community.”

Thomas, who is the organization’s first Black CEO, said his top priorities include addressing the lack of funding for transportation infrastructure, focusing on community college programs that connect two-year degree students with tech jobs and leveraging corporate investments to support $1 billion in affordable housing.

Thomas says he also wants to focus on helping SVLG’s more than 340 member companies hire more minorities and find ways to fund Black and Latinx-owned startups.

“Ahmad understands the primary concerns faced by workers and residents in the Bay Area including cost of housing, economic dislocation and the racial disparities that exist in the tech industry,” said Jed York, the incoming chair of SVLG’s board of directors. “As a leader who has made strides in bettering the community throughout his career, we are very excited by the impact he will make with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.”

For the last decade, Thomas has worked as an investment banker at Barclays, where he focused on structuring and financing public infrastructure, social impact and development projects. Prior to that, he served as a senior advisor on finance and economic policy for Feinstein in her Washington D.C. office.

As an advisor, he worked on policies related to tax and financial services, infrastructure, the federal budget and labor issues. During his time on Capitol Hill, he helped craft five bills that were signed into law, including legislation to reform mortgage lending practices and standardize FDIC procedures on foreclosure prevention.

“Ahmad showed a keen understanding of complex subjects, insight that has only grown over the years,” Feinstein said in a statement. “His work at Barclays, where he focused on financial matters and public policy across the Silicon Valley, will be of great value in his role as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.”

Thomas has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, a master’s from the London School of Economics and MBA from the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Menlo Park with his wife, Dr. Reena Thomas, and their two sons.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

5 Comments

  1. > For the last decade, Thomas has worked as an investment banker at Barclays, where he focused on structuring and financing public infrastructure, social impact and development projects. Prior to that, he served as a senior advisor on finance and economic policy for Feinstein in her Washington D.C. office.

    Sounds like a corporate social justice warrior.

    Does he know anything about free market capitalism?

  2. Ms. Hase’s piece reads like a Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) press release–any stenographer could have produced this with one hand tied behind their back. This is quite a disappointment as Ms. Hase has produced some very worthwhile work (and hopefully will continue to do so).

    Whether Mr. Thomas was elected, appointed or anointed to his new post is not clear from the piece. Nonetheless, the fact that the SVLG now has its first Black CEO will have little or no bearing whatsoever on the well-being of Black lives, let alone Latino, White, Asian or other lives in our region. Nor will the first Black CEO of the Valley Water improve anyone’s life, per se, other than Mr. Callender’s, I presume (https://www.valleywater.org/news-events/news-releases/rick-callender-leads-valley-water-new-chief-executive-officer).

    Likewise, I am pretty sure that the health of Black, Latino and other Californians has not improved and will not improve in any substantial way due to California Endowment activities despite the Endowment’s Black President and CEO, Black Board Chair and at least eight Latinos and four Asian members of its Board or Executive Staff (https://www.calendow.org/press-release/the-california-endowment-pledges-10-year-support-for-black-led-organizing-activism/). The fact that the Endowment is the largest private health care foundation in the U.S. and was created by Blue Cross of California–a major for-profit health care insurer–after it merged with Wellpoint Health Networks–a for-profit health care insurer originally created and spun off by Blue Cross itself (https://www.calendow.org/our-story/#history) insures the Endowment will never support really equitable health care or public health.

    (Any objective expert not on the payroll of private insurers, hospitals or drug companies will tell you that guaranteed, universal health care (e.g. improved Medicare for all) is the least costly, most effective and most equitable solution for the millions of uninsured and underinsured in the U.S. (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)33019-3/fulltext). But you won’t find a single word about this on the Endowment website. Nor will you find the word “justice,” or the phrases “single payer” of “health justice” anywhere on the their website, despite all the hype about “building healthy communities.”)

    What is certain is that whoever heads these private institutions–that have appointed themselves “community leaders” with no needed input from any actual communities–will reproduce and reinforce a neoliberal political economy in which profit matters “uber alles.” We can be certain that, given Mr. Thomas’ background and the make up and interests represented by the SVLG, profitable real estate and mortgage industries will predominate over “affordable” housing every time; private hospital and drug company profits will always trump “affordable” health care and public health; for-profit charter school business models will likely outweigh an integrated and publicly-financed pre-school to college educational system; and tech and other industry profits and power will figure more importantly than bit-, gig- and wage workers rights to decent incomes and working conditions.

    As Dr. King told us, let’s not be fooled by the color of anyone’s skin; let’s consider the content of their character first. Even if the ethnic composition of elites exactly and proportionately mirrored that of the population at large, that would not solve the problems of economic and social inequalities. The very existence of an elite, whatever its predominant ethnicity, is the problem as it implies underclasses.

    In other words, greater shares of Blacks and Latinos employed by large corporations or by non-profit organizations and foundations would not alter the class system of power that immiserates larger and larger segments of the working population, including Whites. The color of Mr. Thomas’ changes nothing about this reality, regardless of what neoliberal identity brokers want us to believe.

  3. Ms. Hase’s piece reads like a Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) press release–any stenographer could have produced this with one hand tied behind their back. This is quite a disappointment as Ms. Hase has produced some very worthwhile work (and hopefully will continue to do so).

    Whether Mr. Thomas was elected, appointed or anointed to his new post is not clear from the piece. Nonetheless, the fact that the SVLG now has its first Black CEO will have little or no bearing whatsoever on the well-being of Black lives, let alone Latino, White, Asian or other lives in our region. Nor will the first Black CEO of the Valley Water improve anyone’s life, per se, other than Mr. Callender’s, I presume (https://www.valleywater.org/news-events/news-releases/rick-callender-leads-valley-water-new-chief-executive-officer).

    Likewise, I am pretty sure that the health of Black, Latino and other Californians has not improved and will not improve in any substantial way due to California Endowment activities despite the Endowment’s Black President and CEO, Black Board Chair and at least eight Latinos and four Asian members of its Board or Executive Staff (https://www.calendow.org/press-release/the-california-endowment-pledges-10-year-support-for-black-led-organizing-activism/). The fact that the Endowment is the largest private health care foundation in the U.S. and was created by Blue Cross of California–a major for-profit health care insurer–after it merged with Wellpoint Health Networks–a for-profit health care insurer originally created and spun off by Blue Cross itself (https://www.calendow.org/our-story/#history) insures the Endowment will never support really equitable health care or public health.

    (Any objective expert not on the payroll of private insurers, hospitals or drug companies will tell you that guaranteed, universal health care (e.g. improved Medicare for all) is the least costly, most effective and most equitable solution for the millions of uninsured and underinsured in the U.S. (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)33019-3/fulltext). But you won’t find a single word about this on the Endowment website. Nor will you find the word “justice,” or the phrases “single payer” of “health justice” anywhere on their website, despite all the hype about “building healthy communities.”)

    What is certain is that whoever heads these private institutions–that have appointed themselves “community leaders” with no needed input from any actual communities–will reproduce and reinforce a neoliberal political economy in which profit matters “uber alles.” We can be certain that, given Mr. Thomas’ background and the make-up and interests represented by the SVLG, profitable real estate and mortgage industries will predominate over “affordable” housing every time; private hospital and drug company profits will always trump “affordable” health care and public health; for-profit charter school business models will likely outweigh an integrated and publicly-financed pre-school to college educational system; and tech and other industry profits and power will figure more importantly than bit-, gig- and wage workers rights to decent incomes and working conditions.

    As Dr. King told us, let’s not be fooled by the color of anyone’s skin; let’s consider the content of their character first. Even if the ethnic composition of elites exactly and proportionately mirrored that of the population at large, that would not solve the problems of economic and social inequalities. The very existence of an elite, whatever its predominant ethnicity, is the problem as it implies underclasses.

    In other words, greater shares of Blacks and Latinos employed by large corporations or by non-profit organizations and foundations would not alter the class system of power that immiserates larger and larger segments of the working population, including Whites. The color of Mr. Thomas’ changes nothing about this reality, regardless of what neoliberal identity brokers want us to believe.

  4. > The very existence of an elite, whatever its predominant ethnicity, is the problem as it implies underclasses.

    The bell curve exists, even if social justice warriors wish it didn’t exist.

    The supremely self-confident pointy heads can’t “flatten the curve” of a single little garden variety coronavirus.

    They sure as hell can’t flatten the bell curve.

    They can’t make stupid people think like smart people. And they can’t make smart people think like stupid people. (Well, maybe Democrats can make SOME smart people think like stupid people)

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